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-Evangelicals Still Growing but Denominations in Decline?

by Dr. D ~ June 15th, 2015

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‘Lies, Darned Lies and Church Statistics’

We recently wrote about a poll that showed Baptists to be among the most favored denominations in America. Now comes this latest information that shows a decline in the the largest Baptist and evangelical denomination-Southern Baptist Convention by 200,000 or so last year. Meanwhile that latest data also shows that evangelicals in general continue to increase and most of that is happening in non-denominational churches. From CNN:

So, if evangelicals are growing and many denominations are shrinking, then where are they going?

Looking at the General Social Survey, using denomination of those whose religious preference is "Protestant," you can see where the growth is: it’s nondenominational. In fact, over the last four decades, there has been a 400% increase in Protestants who identify as nondenominational.

The sky still isn’t falling on American Christianity or evangelicalism. Rather, there is a stunning growth in nondenominational evangelicalism that is reshaping the religious landscape today. More and more churchgoing Christians, when asked about denomination, are saying, "none."

American Christianity is becoming more nondenominational and more evangelical at the same time. And those are stats you can believe in.

<Read the whole article>

Response: This article really does reflect all of the experiences that I have had with the American church and church membership in the last 25 years or so. What I have observed, at least in Southern California, is an exponential growth among non-denominational evangelical churches both in number and actual participating membership.

Anyone who has been involved with church administration, like a pastor,  an elder, or board member knows how approximate the numbers can be when it comes to church members. Like Ed Stetzer says in the CNN article there are- ‘lies, darned lies and church statistics.’

Fact is, there is a wide variety of methods used to arrive at an ‘official’ membership count. Some denominations count baptized members only while most non-denominational churches approximate their membership based upon a factor of church attendance and some kind of loose commitment or involvement.

Denominations that count baptized members on their rolls more than likely have inflated membership numbers that have no real relationship to attendance or participation. Any attempt to clean up the rolls a bit can result in a considerable decline in membership even if it is not reflected in the reality of attendance and/or  participation which may have actually increased.

I can remember years ago as an assistant pastor being involved with trying to find all of the baptized members on our denominational rolls and clean up our lists for better congregational communication in a ‘growing’ church only to find that nearly 25% of the folks had moved out of the area. The last 25 years our family has been involved with a ‘non-denominational’ church but you can bet that we are still on the rolls of our old denomination since you have to file an ‘official’ request for removal which we haven’t done. 

Fact is, the only good way to guage real church membership is through actual attendance and real church participation. Most pastors are more concerned about who is actually showing up and less with any dead denominational roll which may list someone who was baptized 50 years ago but has been among the ‘missing and non-active’ ever since.               *Top

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